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Hope Around The Corner

A quick hello to all the readers out there – My name is Steve Adams, I’ve been writing at for three years and began writing for this year as well. I’m happy to be getting a chance to write exclusively about the Twins, the team I grew up with and follow obsessively to this day. I’m looking forward to joining the TwinkieTown community and want to thank Jesse for the opportunity. I’ll get the cheap Twitter plug (@Adams_Steve) out of the way early on.. Let’s get on with the first post, shall we?

I’m likely not in the minority when I say that it’s been more difficult than usual for me to be optimistic about this team so far in 2011. I try not to be too negative any year, though as an opinionated person I’ve been known to give off that vibe. Still, getting behind the Twins is something I’ve always managed to do, and yet this season it’s been harder than usual to have a positive outlook heading into games where the lineup features Steve Holm, Jason Repko, Matt Tolbert, and Alexi Casilla hitting in succession.

The Twins rank at or near the bottom in just about every major offensive category. The bullpen entered Monday night’s game with a 25:20 K:BB ratio. Eleven players around the league have as many or more home runs as the entire Twins’ roster combined, and that comes after games at three of the most hitter friendly parks in baseball (Rogers Centre, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards). Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka are on the disabled list, while Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau don’t look like themselves.

Optimism is hard to come by, indeed.

But what better time for a breath of fresh air than coming off the Twins’ first back-to-back wins of the season, as we look ahead to three more games with an Orioles team that’s now lost eight straight games? I’m giving it a shot.

The Twins have played 16 games this season – 9.9% of their yearly total (or 9.8% if they end up in yet another Game 163 – never say never, right?). We’re not even a tenth through the season, but it’s understandable if that’s not much comfort when looking at a team that’s managed 50 runs through its first 16 games (3.1 per game).

In attempting to find a time in recent history when the Twins have struggled this much offensively, I came across a sixteen game stretch that struck me as particularly inspiring. Nearly five years ago to the date, the Twins embarked on a 5-11 stretch that would see them total a mere 51 runs. As a team, they hit a paltry .237/.295/.330 with a measly eight homers. They left 108 men on base and walked just 42 times compared to 72 strikeouts. Stop me when this sounds familiar.

As we all know, the Twins went on to win the division in a thrilling, albeit nail-biting divisional race. Resuscitated by the midseason additions of Francisco Liriano to the rotation, breakout Jason Bartlett at shortstop, and out-of-nowhere journeyman Nick Punto at third base, the Twins went 84-48 following that awful stretch in April/May and secured themselves a date with Oakland in the ALDS.

Is it so hard to imagine a similar run to carry the Twins to the top of the AL Central once again? It’s not as if we’re without another highly-touted young pitcher (Kyle Gibson) or a potential middle infield breakout (Tsuyoshi Nishioka upon his return).

The Royals and Indians currently sit atop this division, but does anyone expect that to continue over the course of a full season? Stranger things have happened, but that’s a tall order for two teams composed of journeymen, rookies, and reclamation projects.

Eventually, the Twins are going to hit. And as the runs come across the plate, the wins will pile up. It’s fortunate that both the White Sox and Tigers have stumbled out of the gate as well, arguably against weaker competition than the Twins have faced.

It's been a rough season thus far, but by the end of the week the Twins will be nearly done playing on the East Coast and have about 90% of the season ahead of them. It's been easy to be cynical, but there's hope around the corner. The Twins have gone through similar stretches and still come out on top.